In the year ending 31 March 2014, the Health & Safety Executive recorded 42 fatal injuries to workers in construction, compared to 39 the previous year. Although there was more activity in construction last year, the fatal injury rate still worsened marginally, from 1.9 per 100,000 to 1.98 per 100,000 workers.
Last year was better than 2011/2012, however, when 48 construction site deaths were recorded.
The average fatal injury rate over the past five years in construction is 2.07 per 100,000 workers, so the last two years do indicate a downward trend.
Construction remains safer than both agriculture and the waste & recycling sector. Agriculture’s rate of fatal injury in 2013/14 was 8.77 and its five-year average rate is 9.89.
In waste & recycling, the latest fatal injury rate is 3.33 deaths per 100, 000 and the five-year average is 5.48.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said of the increase in building site fatalities: “Each of these deaths was a terrible tragedy where someone’s loved one went to work one day and never came home. Sadly in the vast majority of cases these fatalities could have been easily prevented."
He added: “The rise in fatalities should send a chill through the industry and it corresponds with a very modest upturn in construction. All the previous evidence shows that as the industry gets busier deaths and accidents increase. These dangers are being exacerbated by the massive cuts that the government have made to the HSE’s budget and their continued attack on safety laws and regulations. Rather than cutting safety laws the government should be taking action to ensure that proper measures are introduced to punish employers who are prepared to risk the lives of their workers.”
Construction worker health is also under the spotlight with the revelation that 2,535 people died in 2012 from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. This is a 10.6% increase from 2,291 in 2011.
HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “The high numbers of deaths relating to mesothelioma are a reminder of historically poor standards of workplace health and safety, which decades later are causing thousands of painful, untimely deaths each year. While we now recognise and are better positioned to manage such health risks, these statistics are a stark reminder of the importance of keeping health standards in the workplace on a par with those we apply to safety.”